It’s enough to type “child” or even “#MumTok” on social media platforms such as TikTok to find endless posts of parents sharing videos and photos of their children.
This trend of posting your child on social media has a name – “sharenting,” a portmanteau of the words sharing and parenting.
But French members of parliament want to put a stop to this. Currently, an anti-sharenting bill is being debated in the country’s Senate.
One of the clauses being put forward aims to make parents responsible for the privacy rights of their children who cannot consent to their images being uploaded online.
In the most extreme cases, a family judge could even take away one parents’ rights to share images of their child, if deemed excessive or harmful.
This proposed law also looks to punish influencer parents looking to gain followers and earn money by posting images of their children.
It’s important to remember that once you share content online, it can be very difficult to erase it later on.
According to different studies, the average child has their picture shared on online 1,300 times before the age of 13 – that’s before they are even authorised to create their own social media profile on Facebook or Instagram.
The Observatory of parenthood and digital education found that more half of parents had already shared their children online. And 91 per cent did so before their child reached the age of five.
First law of its kind in the world
This bill is a world-first and has been welcomed by child psychologists and social media experts.
“I find it necessary to protect under-age children who have no voice to speak against the images shared online by their parents,” said Anja Stevic, researcher in communications at the University of Vienna.
Researcher, University of Vienna
“Parents need to be aware of the risks… Mostly regarding ethics or stealing the images for some really malicious purposes online,” she told Euronews.
Bruno Studer, the French politician behind the bill highlights 50 per cent of photos innocently shared on social media end up on child sex abuse forums.
Is this true? The estimate comes from an investigation by the Office of the Commissioner for Children and Young People in Australia back in 2015.
This study is outdated since it’s eight years old but according to the French Council of Associations for the Rights of Children (Cofrade), “Europol and Interpol alerted as early as 2020 to the proliferation of online child sex abuse content and the prevalence of self-produced content by young people themselves or those around them”.
Knowing all of these risks, is it still safe to share images of your child online? Stevic believes so.
“When the settings are set up to private, sharing only with family and friends. I’ve seen parents just share children from the back, so not really sharing their child’s full face or full body,” she explained.
“I think the problem is when the pictures are too public and when this is really accessible to everybody and, of course, to abusers online”.
Although this bill won’t prevent child sex abuse websites from collecting content posted online, French MPs want to remind parents that they must respect their child’s digital privacy.